Georgia’s new paper ballots: Security upgrade or security risk?

ATLANTA — Georgia’s 33,000 new voting machines generate paper ballots, which is an important security upgrade.

But critics say those paper ballots have a problem.

The paper ballots are the key difference from Georgia's old, out of date voting machines. Those paperless machines did not generate any sort of paper backup that could be compared to the computer count.

But the president of the Georgia NAACP James Woodall doesn’t consider these new ballots real paper ballots either.

That’s because with Georgia’s new voting machines, the QR code is scanned and counted, not the names.

“Anyone can go into a machine, if its technology anybody can hack it,” Woodall said.

Woodall wants pen and paper.

Channel 2 Investigative reporter Justin Gray took that concern, directly to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

“What do you say to people who have these concerns about the QR code. That they could be vulnerable to hackers, somebody could change that and we’d never know it?” Gray asked.

"That’s why we do system check, system check, system check, and that’s why the audit then also points that out," Raffensperger said.

That audit is what David Becker, from the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation & Research, said is such an important change from Georgia’s old paperless machines.

"It's a piece of software on a machine and its reading marks, so it’s very important to have the audits of the human readable portion to make sure the tabulations are right," Becker said.

In Lee county last week Georgia election workers were auditing results by hand.

When we do an audit this is what we look at, we do not do audit the bar code. we look at the actual selections." Raffensperger said.

But Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold has announced that her state will be banning the use of QR code counts in 2021.

“Removing QR codes from ballots will enable voters to see for themselves that their ballots are correct and helps guard against cyber meddling,” Griswold said.

Raffensperger points out Colorado uses the same voting system as Georgia and the technology doesn’t exist yet to eliminate the QR codes for those machines.

We reached out to that company Dominion, and a spokesperson said they are working on a new software upgrade for Colorado, to be ready by 2021.